The French do not mess with breakfast. They know how to start their day off right: not only with a great baguette and real butter but also with artisanal jams. They consume 4.4 kg (almost 9 lbs) of it per person per year.
Their jams have nothing to do with the strawberry sugar product I put on my toast or peanut butter and jelly sandwich as a kid.
But if you think a great artisanal jam is just like what you buy from the grocery store at twice the price with a cute piece of checkered cloth on top, read on. It’s seriously delicious, and though it has sugar in it, there’s often a lot less than the products in the jam & jelly aisle at the supermarket.
And starting your day off with delicious food on your breakfast table can change your outlook on life – at least until lunchtime.
First, let’s clear up any confusion:
What’s the difference between a jam, a jelly, a marmalade, and a preserve?
Jams: are made from fruit pulp or fruit purée
Jellies: are made from fruit juice
Marmalades: are usually made from citrus fruit and contain pieces of the fruit and its rind
Jams, jellies, and marmalades are all examples of different styles of fruit preserves that vary based upon the fruit used.
In English, the word “preserves” is used to describe all types of jams and jellies, but is often interchangeable with” jams.” A “Preserve“(without the “s” at the end) or a “Conserve” is a marketing term used for a jam with high fruit content.
The French have minimum standards for what defines a jam or a jelly.
Check out these ratios:
Jam (in French “Confiture“)
Jam is a mix of fruit pulp or purée with water & sugar.
For 100 grams of the finished product, there must be a minimum of 35 grams of fruit pulp or purée. (except for certain fruits such as passion fruit).
The term “Confiture Extra” means it’s like a super-confiture: It will have a minimum of 45 grams of fruit pulp or purée for 100 grams of the final product.
Some top artisanal jams will go as high as 55-60 grams of fruit purée or pulp for 100 grams of product!
What does this mean for you?
It means you’re getting a lot more fruit and a lot less added sugar than in a highly processed, industrially made jam. While that ups the price, the high fruit content also means you’re getting a lot more flavor.
Jelly (in French “Gelée”)
Jelly is made directly from the juice of a pressed fruit or with added fruit juice plus water and sugar.
The minimum quantity of pure pressed or added fruit juice used to make jelly is the same as for the fruit pulp/purée of a confiture: 35 grams/100 grams of the finished product.
A “Gelée Extra” has the same ratios as a “Confiture Extra”: a minimum of 45 grams of fruit juice/100 grams of the finished product.
5 Things That Make an Artisanal Jam or Jelly Great:
1. Quality of ingredients:
The fruit used is not just any fruit but the most flavorful varietals, and they’re at their peak ripeness and flavor when used.
A few examples: “Meeker” Raspberries, “Mara des Bois” Strawberries, Apricots from the “Coteaux du Layon,” Mirabelles from the Lorraine region.
2. Use of copper cookware:
Why? It conducts heat better than your average cookware. It heats up faster so that the water in the fruit evaporates faster. The fruit cooks quickly and doesn’t risk being over-cooked.
3. Timing in cooking:
A tremendous artisanal jam is neither too liquid (undercooked) or too stiff (over-cooked)
4. A high ratio of fruit to sugar.
However, if the fruit is of low quality, then it makes little difference if the amount of fruit is higher than the sugar.
5. The absence of artificial colors, preservatives, chemicals, sugar substitutes, or taste enhancers.
So if you’re convinced that switching out your supermarket jam for a well-made artisanal jam could get you more excited about breakfast, here’s what to look for when you set out to buy one:
3 Things to Look for When Choosing a Great Jam or Jelly
1. Look at the ratio of fruit to added sugar on the label.
Top artisanal jams will have a fruit content as high as 55 or 60 grams of fruit to 100 grams of the final product. That’s a much higher fruit content than the minimum legal requirement for a confiture or gelée of 35 grams/100 grams of the final product.
2. Look for specific varietals of fruit used.
It shows that particular care was taken in the selection of the ingredients and that’s a sign of a superior product. Examples of varietals used in France are “Meeker” Raspberries, “Mara des Bois” Strawberries, Apricots from the “Coteaux du Layon,” Mirabelles from the Lorraine region.
3. Make sure there are no artificial ingredients.
Everything listed on the label should be natural: the added sugar is a natural preservative, so no need for chemicals. Coloring should just come from the fruit. If ingredients were chosen carefully, there shouldn’t be any need for artificial flavor enhancers.
The absence of chemical preservatives means that you cannot leave it in the fridge for months on end once opened. It should be good for at least two weeks after opening if it’s kept in the coldest section of the refrigerator.
Read more about the flavors of jams, jellies, and confitures the French love most and other ways they pair them with food outside of breakfast.
What do you think? Have you ever tried a French artisanal jam? If so, what did you think of it?
Photo courtesy of Brooke Lark at Unsplash.com